Duke sports team / rape

  1. I’m thrilled about the support the black community in Durham is showing the victim, and I’m very glad the racist and class aspects of the story are being discussed nationally.
  2. Are the racial and class aspects driving the story? If the victim were a white woman and only another ho hum story about a woman being raped by college athletes would it have been reported and would anyone in the media care or report it? How many other rapes do you think have happened at Duke this year? Unwanted sexual contact and intercourse happens commonly, but only in these exceptional circumstances (and with this exceptionally brave reporting to police) do we hear about it. I’m not sure that law suits or even criminalizing it is the best way to deal with this public epidemic.
  3. Why isn’t there more press about the fact that one of these defendants has already been convicted of gay bashing? Read this posting on Colin Finnerty for more.
  4. Why do they keep referring to the victim / complainant as a stripper? (6/12/06 You can see an explanation in the comments below and my acceptance of the commentator’s correction, if not the commentator’s tone)
  5. If there hadn’t been a reported rape, but other details of the party had gotten to Duke administrators and players parents (ie.the team having a team function with strippers as entertainment and yelling that they’d like to f them with a broomstick), what would have been the reaction, if any?

There was a parallel incident when I was at Yale. It was never reported to police and I don’t think it went as far as this one did. A fraternity which was based off-campus had a party for which they hired a stripper. They ended up hiring a prostitute instead of a stripper and some of the guys had sex with her with the group chanting. Word spread because people happened to hear the noise and look in and see what was going on. I think some of the guys talked about it and I remember that the dudes who had sex with her bragged about it. They were on a varsity team too.
When I heard about it I wondered if the woman was raped. I certainly felt like the setting was about 3 inches away from gang rape if it wasn’t already happening. I was very involved as an activist advocating around rape and sexual assault issues on campus. I had organized a women’s self-defense class for the campus and in the process had ended up hearing dozens and dozens of sexual asssault and rape stories first-hand from women on campus. I had had my own experiences which showed me how easily this could happen. It made me incredibly sad, and angry to see and feel how common this was. I ended up on the campus Sexual Harassment Grievence Board which I found very effective, contrary to what Naomi Wolf has said about it. But being at a campus like Yale or Duke, there’s this status and class-connected feeling of safety for many. You can feel the white, upper-middle class thing happening “everything looks good, so it must be good here.” To challenge that idea, the story an institution or family or person tells about themselves is really threatening. Because if this could happen here, what else could? But the scariest question is not “what else could happen here?” but “What already happened to make this possible?”

Why did Colin Finnerty gay bash a man in Georgetown? Why was the easiest way for this woman to make money stripping? Why did she let herself go back in the house? Assualt and rape so often repeat themselves. I believe people are primed.

The frat audience sex incident motivated me to organize the first modern pan-fraternity meeting at Yale. This was not a strategy most of my feminist activist peers were taking (and there weren’t very many of us, contrary to the popular image in the press). I believe it’s important to involve the teams in making this situation better. The group dynamic can go both ways. All it takes is one or two leaders with a different kind of awareness to steer the situation in a different direction. Of course my experience was in the late 80s, before every other music video and rap song, not to mention the way most guys seem to learn about sex in America: p8rn.

Generally when things blow up this big, like the latest rape at Duke, it’s because there have been systemic problems for a while and then, finally, one symbolic event comes along and rips the cover off the mess, just like Hurricane Katrina did. In my four years at Yale I think there was something like one rape reported to the campus police. I know from number of rapes and assaults I heard about first-hand and other creepy things I learned about on the Grievance Board that this is a ridiculously low number. For someone to go not just to campus police but city police is unusual. For a black woman to have gone to them (I’m just imagining some historically deserved mistrust here) and had a physical exam, this *very* unusual and not casually done.